before you venture farther,
‘they did not sin. Though they have merit,
that is not enough, for they were unbaptised,
denied the gateway to the faith that you profess
The further side of Acheron. – Virgil leads Dante into Limbo, the First Circle of Hell, containing the spirits of those who lived virtuously but without Christianity. – Greeting of Virgil by his fellow poets. – They enter a castle, where are the shades of ancient worthies. – Virgil and Dante depart.
A clap of thunder awakens Dante on the shore of the Acheron. He realizes he’s on the edge of the infernal abyss, dark and deep. After entering the first Circle of Hell, Limbo, the two poets hear the sighs of the souls who led virtuous lives without being christened. They cannot ascend to Paradise because they were not Christian. On the other hand, having no blemish other than Adam’s sin, they don’t suffer as much as other sinners: they only feel the absence of God’s love as a constant ache. Four souls approach the poets: they are Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan, who have come to pay homage to Virgil. They kindly welcome Dante, accepting him in their number. Talking, the six move ahead and arrive at a shining place at the foot of a castle. It is protected by seven walls and a stream, which they cross as if it were dry land. After passing through the seven gates, one for every wall, the group arrives at a green and fresh meadow. Virgil shows Dante some of the noblest spirits from ancient times and the non-Christian Middle Ages. They part from their companions and, once they have left Limbo, hit darkness again.
The Cathedral Baptistery, also known as Neonian Baptistery, is the place where the Catholics from Ravenna were baptized. It has been a Unesco World Heritage Monument since 1996 and it well represents Baptism as the gateway to Faith which Dante mentions in the fourth Canto – here he describes the Limbo of the unbaptized, where Virgilio himself is hosted.
Traduzione a cura della classe 5aC A.S.20/21 del Liceo Scientifico A. Oriani di Ravenna
Canto adopted by Alberto e Fulvia Lions Club Romagna Padusa
For further information on Neonian Baptisery